Blogs. They’re everywhere. In fact, so many businesses now have them, they’re seen as a fundamental component of the way businesses are run. Even back in 2013, a survey by Marketing Sherpa found that blogging was seen as either an effective or somewhat effective component of inbound marketing by a substantial majority of businesses surveyed.
Today, blogging isn’t showing any signs of going away or being replaced by another form of content creation. Stats compiled by blogging.org showed that in 2016, small businesses with blogs had experienced 126% increases in the leads they generated. Also, that 76% of marketers planned to increase the amount of content they produce in future.
These are just a few stats amongst many that point to the same thing. When it comes to generating leads for your business, blogging is a very powerful tool – if it’s done properly.
But, what if you already have a blog and it’s not working for you? Is blogging not right for your business, and is it just something that works for others?
The first place to look for answers is not the outside environment – but to look inwards at your own blog; and I mean really look, closely, about what it says to your prospects and existing customers alike.
In reality, not all businesses are experiencing the exponential benefits of blogging that content marketers tell them they should be. A number of fundamental problems keep showing themselves time and time again. Have a look at these four major failings below, and see if any (or all) of them apply to you.
Your latest content was written years ago
I’ve lost count of the number of sites I’ve visited where the blog looks shiny on the surface, the titles of the posts look good, and then you look at the dates the posts were written – and the most recent one was 2014!
The brutal truth about blogging is that it only works really well if you post fresh content often. You can’t just put up a bunch of posts, say to yourself that you now have enough and then stop. HubSpot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks survey reveals a number of telling stats about the benefits of blogging regularly. For instance, blogging more than 20 times every month will generate five times more traffic than if you post less then four times a month. Starkly, the difference between blogging 15 times a month and not blogging at all is a fivefold increase in web traffic.
In short, if you’re going to blog, you have to stick at this, and be consistent. This is not a one-off project.
The blog posts are more about you than your customers
Too many blogs are used as a proxy for company newsletters. As a result, they don’t have a clear audience in mind and leave their readers confused. One minute, they’re reading about the company’s new product offering that’s going to solve all their problems – the next, they’re looking at photos of how the staff really enjoyed themselves at the quarterly celebrating success event at Nando’s.
One thing that a blogging strategy needs more than anything else is a clear understanding of your target audience. If the aim of the blog is to drive traffic to your website, you have to be focused on how you can solve your prospects’ problems. In short, the blog has to show what’s in it for them, not how great you are.
That’s not easy, I know. But anybody who’s made of success of content marketing will tell you if you don’t get this step right, the rest of your efforts will be in vain.
The posts are too long (or too short)
This is another thing businesses struggle with, partly because there is no clear answer as to what’s right and what’s wrong. Some will tell you that short, snappy posts are the way to go, whilst others will expound the benefits of long-form posts. As a result, too many businesses have either short posts that are little more than Tweet length, or massive blocks of text that wouldn’t look out of place in an academic journal.
To get this right, two objectives for blog posts have to be borne in mind – how well they rank in searches, and how likely they are to be read.
Yoast reported in 2016 that longer posts (i.e. more than 1000 words) had the greatest chance of good Google rankings. However, they also reported that you can get good results from 300-word posts too.
So is there a risk going to 1,000 words? Will readers stick around long enough to go through all that text without switching off before the end? The answer lies in how long people take to read. Thankfully, stats are available. Content site Medium.com states how many minutes it thinks you will take reading each of the articles published there, using a simple formula based around the average reading time of an adult. This calculation results in an estimate of three minutes to read about 500 words.
So, whilst there’s no definite answer here, if you’re stuck, aiming for between 500 – 800 words is going to be a good compromise between reading time and SEO results. However, the size of your post isn’t the only thing you need to keep in mind. There’s one more problem to solve.
They’re just not that readable
Unfortunately, there’s a definite skill in writing effective blog posts that needs to be developed. It’s not as simple as writing a whole bunch of random thoughts and hoping that people will be immediately attracted to your moments of inspiration.
Whilst it’s not in the scope of this piece to teach on how to write good blog posts, there are a few common traps that many unwitting content creators fall into when putting their blogs together:
- Dull or annoying headlines
You may think that “What do JFK Airport and our new Widget have in common?” is a great and inspiring headline that everyone will be desperate to read past to find out what the answer is. It’s not – no-one cares.
If you’re going to get prospects’ attention, your headlines need to show them the benefit of reading the rest of the post. Too many headlines miss this mark because they’re trying to be cute or clever, and don’t really consider what their prospects need.
2. Not scannable enough
If you’re not already aware of this, most people who read online will scan something first to see if it’s worth reading more closely. So you can help by making your posts scannable.
Too many blog posts have large blocks of text and don’t take advantage of techniques such as sub-headings, bullets and bold text to bring out the key points. By a few simple adjustments, posts with walls of text can be made much more appealing – and more likely to be read – faster.
3. No call to action
This is probably the worst indiscretion of all. Why go to the trouble of writing something only for the readers to say to themselves, “Oh, that was interesting” and move on?
Content marketing is all about generating interest and attention, which in turn generates leads, and ultimately customers. Your blog is a golden opportunity to engage people in this process. So why not have a call to action at the end of each blog post?
It doesn’t have to be anything too direct. You don’t have to ask for people to buy your latest offering, or to agree to a salesperson calling. It could be just a link to another part of your site, to subscribe for email updates, receive a free report, whatever – but do something.
So, if you’re wondering whether I’ve practised what I preach, here’s mine. If this all sounds too complicated and too much like hard work, why not get some help?